Bridgestone Americas Inc.’s top executive, Gary Garfield, says consumer tire sales are slow. But, he adds, sales of OE truck tires are going quite well.
“It’s a different situation depending upon which part of the market you’re talking about,” says Garfield, CEO and president of Bridgestone Americas. Garfield covered the latest Bridgestone news at a media roundtable during the Bridgestone Invitational golf tournament in Akron, Ohio.
Garfield says that the OE truck tire market is up between 55-60% over last year.
“Replacement truck tire sales, industrywide, are up maybe in the high single digits,” he says. “Part of that is pent-up demand for trucks. No one was buying trucks during the recession. Company fleets have started to buy trucks. That demand is way up, which in turn increases OE demand.”
Garfield says that the company’s ag tire market is growing exponentially, especially in developing countries. He adds that mining is very strong right now, also particularly in developing countries. He has ideas as to why the market isn’t very strong here in the U.S.
“ We thought three months ago that the economy would come back,” he explains. “Dysfunction in Congress is keeping the economy sluggish. Ag and OTR tire markets are impacted by the global economy. Clarity is short right now. Everyone is waiting for jobs.”
Garfield says that right now the big issue in the U.S. is housing. Unemployment numbers are not likely to improve without the housing market picking up. However, housing won’t pick up without unemployment going down. He says it’s a “Catch 22” situation. If the global economy slows, that probably will lead to lower- than-forecast commodity price increases.
“What we are about is being the best,” he says. “We’ve got to be financially successful. Every great company is financially successful.”